Handwashing with soap in Kenya not a habit

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

By Michelle Anekeya

Hand washing with soap is the single most cost effective method of preventing diseases.

Despite this fact, many people do not wash their hands. To some, this is not even a habit. Study findings on handwashing behaviour in Kenya show that Kenyans have a strong culture of washing their faces first thing in the morning compared to washing their hands with soap, which puts them at risk of contracting diarrhoea-related diseases.

The study was carried out by Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) on behalf of the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation dubbed “Are your hands clean enough?” Results from the “Are your hands clean enough?” study show: • Soap is available in 97% of the households in Kenya, yet only 5% of Kenyans were using it to wash hands

Handwashing with soap in school is almost nonexistent – only 1% washed hands with soap and 28% washed hands in some way • 77% of primary school children do not wash hands with soap especially in schools, leaving them vulnerable to suffering from diarrhoea. On the positive side the results show:

Kenyans are aware of handwashing with soap after using the toilet • Caregivers in Kenya are familiar with the concept of handwashing with soap • Handwashing relatively higher in Nyeri and Mombasa at 13 and 12 %

Handwashing with soap takes low priority at the household level. It comes after bathing, doing laundry and washing dishes The research noted that Kenyans wash their hands with soap after leaving the toilet and but not before handling food. It seems that few people understand the relationship between the lack of washing hands and diseases.

The study recommended that any handwashing messages should mainly target women since they are the key decision makers on soap usage at the household level. In addition, there is need to formulate messages that capture the aspirations and dreams that mothers have for their children.

The study recommended that the adoption of soap in handwashing needs to be scaled up as well as the promotion of the recommended ways of hand washing. So how should one wash their hands with soap? • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.

Use warm water if it is available. • Rub hands together to make lather and scrub all surfaces for 20 seconds. 
Wash all surfaces including: Backs of hands, wrists, between fingers, tips of fingers, thumbs and under fingernails. • Rinse hands well pointing down under running water

Dry your hands using a paper towel or a dry towel. Remember frequent hand washing with is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness.

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